UC research informs A.C.T catchment fire management practice

A recently published paper by University of Canberra researchers has provided new insights into factors influencing fire recovery of the Lower Cotter River Catchment, part of the main water supply catchment for the A.C.T.

Dr Evan Harrison and a team of researchers from the Institute for Applied Ecology examined how pre- fire land use affected the rate of post- fire aquatic ecosystem recovery. This was achieved by assessing water turbidity levels in streams in both native vegetation and former pine forest areas within the catchment.

The project was established in 2005 following the January 2003 bushfires, which destroyed most of the region. The results of the study indicated that stream turbidity in areas that were previously abundant with native vegetation decreased at a faster rate following the 2003 bushfire, when compared to areas that were used for pine plantations. The A.C.T Government is using this data to inform post-fire catchment management practices.

“This result is likely because of a high percentage of bare soil areas in pine plantations for longer periods of time after the fire event,” said Dr Harrison. “These findings provide an understanding of the effects of fire depending on previous land use, which can be used to inform land management practices in the catchment.”

“Under climate changes you are going to have increased fire frequency. The study provides a baseline data set to understand how the catchment functions, what happens post fire, and how long does it take to recover. It is really important to have this baseline data, to know how to best manage catchment recovery following future fire events.”